Ever wondered how grocery store produce gets from the farm to the grocery store? Shipping fresh produce is a lot more complicated than you think, and it involves several supply chains and lots of different equipment, including corrugated boxes and pallets. Here’s everything you need to know about how fruits and veggies make their way from the farm to the store.

Where Do Your Fruits and Veggies Come From?

Whether it’s carrots, kiwis, grapes, or cauliflowers, there’s a good chance that your fruits and veggies come from California. The “Golden State” boasts more than 77,500 farms and produces more than 400 different types of grocery store produce, including two-thirds of the country’s fruit and nuts.

In fact, California produces:

  • 97 percent of kiwis in the United States
  • 97 percent of all plums
  • 71 percent of all spinach

That’s a lot of fruit and vegetables!

Mexico also produces masses of fruit and vegetables, and farmers export them into the U.S.

Whether your fruit and vegetables come from California, Mexico, or elsewhere, the food shipping process is pretty much the same.

1. Farmers Grow Fruits and Vegetables

First, farmers need to grow, nurture, and cultivate the grocery store produce that you see in the grocery store. There are a number of factors that influence this process, including soil conditions and weather elements. They need to carefully plant, irrigate, and fertilize to ensure maximum crop yield.

The time of year will also have an impact on the fruit and vegetables you can find in the stores. Farmers can sell citrus fruits, for example, during the first half of the year, and sell these to grocery stores as standalone products, or to companies who use fruits and vegetables to make other types of food and beverages like salads or juices.

Farmers might sell grocery store produce such as nuts, grapes, stone fruit, avocados, grapes, and row crops during the second half of the year when citrus isn’t coming off the trees.

Purple grapes and brown leaves in a grocery store produce section

2. Packaging

Once farmers have harvested their fruits and vegetables, they will begin the packaging process. They start by shipping fresh produce to a packing house where the fruits and vegetables are run through a process to prepare them for packaging. This might include clearing the debris, washing, and sorting fruits and vegetables by size. Waxing fruits, and sometimes even vegetables, can help to prevent bruising, delay decay, and make grocery store produce look more appealing on the shelf. After processing, the packing houses will pack them into corrugated boxes and stack them onto wooden pallets that protect them during transport. These cartons and pallets must be manufactured to the highest standards to protect the produce during the food shipping process. In most cases, the very same shipping cartons the fruits and vegetables are packed in can also be used to display the fruits and vegetables in the stores.

3. Transportation

Once farmers have cleaned and packaged the fruits and vegetables, the transportation process begins. Whether these foods originate from California, Mexico, or elsewhere, the grocery store produce is shipped in large trucks and then taken to grocery stores across the U.S. Again, cartons and pallets prove useful during this process.

Fruits and vegetables that enter the U.S. from Mexico and other countries will likely undergo custom checks. Research shows that farmers outside the country produce 50 percent of fresh fruits and 20 percent of fresh vegetables in the U.S.

Shipping fresh produce involves a lot of manpower, and fruits and vegetables pass through several different supply chains before they make it to the grocery store. Wooden cartons and pallets are an important part of this process, providing farmers with a way to transport grocery store produce safely and quickly.

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